Arab World English Journal
AWEJ Vol.2 No. 4 December 2011                                                                                                pp. 58-87

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An Investigation of an Approach to Teaching Critical Reading to Native Arabic-Speaking
Students

David F Dalton
School of Arts and Sciences
Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abstract
The purpose of this study is to determine whether the approach to critical reading utilized by the researcher in classroom practice has a positive affective influence in the development of higher order reading skills displayed by students in class. The Higher Order Reading Skills (HORS) approach involves explicit discussion of the nature of critical reading and range of skills involved. Taxonomies such as individual skills are used to familiarize students with these skills and in order that reading is placed in the context of application of derived knowledge for a clear, identifiable purpose. That is, students identify a need to read. The methodology involved two groups: a test group that was exposed to the HORS approach, and a control group that was not. Reading An Investigation of effectiveness was then compared based on performance results taken from two reading texts. Data analyzed indicates that this approach seems to be a significant positive affective factor in their reading, resulting in a higher level of successful measured comprehension performance by the test group over the control group. The confidence of building upon already established skills provides scaffolding upon which further development of critical reading skills can take place. The sample population is foreign language users at the freshman (year 1) level enrolled in a university engineering school in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This study examines their progress in the second level of a communications course where the research was conducted This English medium course aims to produce well-rounded, autonomous life-long learners, along with specific language outcomes, who are able to use higher-order thinking and communication skills required by engineering professionals. Reading in general and the development of what are commonly called Higher Order Reading Skills (HORS) continues to be a concern in the context of secondary and tertiary education (Alverman, 1987). Arabic-speaking students reading in a foreign language face a yet more complex set of difficulties (Shaw, 2006). The study is significant as this population need to be effective critical readers as they are involved in lengthy and complex primary research projects. Further, the institutional reading load is generally high. In this context, effective approaches to teaching critical reading are of obvious importance to the learners‟ academic success.

Keywords: reading, approach, HORS reading strategies, critical thinking skills, EFL, engineering, Arabic

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David F Dalton is a senior lecturer in Communications at the Petroleum Institute in Abu-Dhabi. He has eighteen years experience of teaching language and communications at universities in the UK, Spain, Mexico and the UAE. He also has extensive experience of curriculum design and educational management. His current work has two strands. One is teaching a range of practical, synthesized communications, project management and research skills to undergraduate students. The other is team-teaching on an engineering problem solving programme. All students will later work in the oil and gas industry as engineers, managers and administrators.